Saved a few dollars and lost the farm

InsuranceThe following is a sad tale that was reported in the Digital Age News (we can not call them newspapers any more). This sort of thing sickens me to the core. The moral of the story is that bad things happen to good people. I hear a lot of people say “I cannot afford insurance”. I say you cannot afford not to, as these farmers found out the hardest possible way.

Secondly, insurance is now cheaper and there is simply no excuse. I and many others fought hard and long to get the Victorian Government to remove Fire Services Levies in Victoria and so premiums for fire insurance on farm properties has dropped by more than 50% just in the drop in taxes alone.

While I explained why I do not donate to fire victims in an earlier post, I do not want this to in any way stop anyone else from donating if you feel so compelled.

While I have the highest regard for our police force and those men and women who serve and protect us all, it is disappointing that the system let us down and we see yet another reason why our state system is sometimes more detrimental than beneficial. It is a lot more than just mismatched rail gauges as we were taught at school.

Finally, one issue we have to address as a community is who we should let out on bail and who should be put behind bars. I would urge our governments to look at work done in the US, and in particular New Jersey where they used big data to predict who was likely to re-offend and who was not. This work resulted in lowering the number of people in prison AND reduced the crime rate. The use of big data correctly analysed was provided to judges and magistrates and armed with this knowledge significant changes for the better were achieved.

video-theage-ipadHere is the sad story as reported in the professional way that the Age is rightly renounced for. The journalist is Tammy Mills.

Rick and Sandra Zipsin were used to hosting drifters on their cattle farm on the edge of the Victorian high country.

So it wasn’t unusual when Gino and Mark Stocco came looking for work at the Zipsins’ farm in Glenburn , 30 minutes south of Yea, in the wake of the 2009 Black Saturday fires .

‘‘ We had a lot of fencing to do,’’ Rick said. ‘‘ Looking back now, they probably targeted this area because they knew people needed a hand.’’

The father and son were nomads, they moved from farm to farm across three eastern states and their work couldn’t be faulted.

‘‘ You couldn’t pick anything on them; their work was neat,’’ Rick said. Little did Sandra and Rick know then, but the Stoccos were also developing a nasty habit of turning on their employers at the slightest hint they weren’t wanted.

Gino Stocco, 59, and Mark, 36 had been on the run from the law for eight years when they exploded into the public’s consciousness.

They had been wanted for criminal damages on farms in Queensland, NSW and Victoria when they shot at a police car in Wagga Wagga, in southern NSW, and sparked a 10-day manhunt in October last year.

While they await sentencing in NSW after pleading guilty to the murder of a caretaker and a string of offences, Victorian detectives recently interviewed the pair for ramming a police car at Saint James and the fiery aftermath of their work for the Zipsins.

After the Stoccos’ first stint at the Glenburn farm in 2009, they dropped in unannounced year after year. One day the Zipsins asked to be left alone. ‘‘ We said for them to give us a break,’’ Rick said.

‘‘ I said you can come back, but maybe give us a year’s time.

‘‘ We didn’t know they were that bad then.’’

The Zipsins had no insurance on their sheds when the Stoccos did come back; the fire levy had been introduced and rates were through the roof.

‘‘ We thought we’d cancel the sheds and machinery off the insurance policy for one year and reinsure when the rates return to normal,’’ Rick said.

That’s when the attacks happened . Two fires three months apart burnt down three sheds and destroyed crucial machinery, causing almost one million dollars in damage.

The police investigation at the time was fruitless and it wasn’t until  Queensland farmer Doug Redding, also an alleged victim, handed out his own ‘‘ wanted’ ’ posters that the Zipsins thought it could have been the Stoccos.

The three state police forces, according to one interstate officer , were not talking to each other.

To the individual officers on the ground, the criminal damage and arson left behind were isolated crimes that didn’t amount to much.

The Stoccos’ off-the-grid lifestyle – no phones, no credit cards, no nothing – didn’t help police trying to track them. And then Wagga happened.

‘‘ We didn’t know they were that bad,’’ Rick said.

‘‘ The bit that scared us was when they were down here in Victoria on their chase and everyone – all the coppers – were up in Yea and we were out here on our own.’’

The Zipsins welcomed the action from Victoria Police, but said it was too late to recover the losses on their farms. Victims of crime compensation is also out of the question as property crime is not covered by it.

The Zipsins, who have two children in primary school, remain crippled financially and psychologically.

They have sold their cattle, leased their farm out and haven’t been able to replace their machinery or sheds, which are still burnt-out shells.

‘‘ We built it all up and it’s all gone,’’ Rick said. ‘‘ It was the Stoccos all along for no good reason at all.’’

It is expected the Stoccos will be extradited to face Queensland and Victorian charges upon the completion of their NSW sentence.

A fundraising page has been set up to help the Zipsins rebuild their farm. To donate, see gofundme.com/ 2ay8e8aw.

Copyright © 2016 The Age

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